Novel Approaches for Linking Air Quality Mixtures, Climate, and Human Health
John Pearce, Ph.D.
Urban air pollution is a significant public health problem with estimated mortality impacts predominantly among infants and elderly people with pre-existing cardiovascular and respiratory disease. Research on ambient air pollution health effects has begun shifting research objectives away from the single-pollutant paradigm to a more multi-pollutant or mixtures perspective to better understand the impacts of "real world" air pollution exposures on human health. Another area that is fundamentally linked to air quality, and id of increasing concern for public health, is climate change.
During the initial K99 phase, the candidate will work closely with mentors to develop improved statistical methodologies for assessing the effects of multi-pollutant exposures in epidemiological studies, a natural extension of current postdoctoral research. The intent here is to shift focus from identifying the types of air pollutant mixtures that occur in the environment, to characterizing multi-pollutant exposures for epidemiological research. These will be applied to two ongoing epidemiological investigations being conducted within the Southeastern Center for Air Pollution Epidemiology (SCAPE), which is an EPA-funded Clean Air Research Center shared between Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology. The studies include a short-term ecological study and a long-term cohort study.
During the mentored phase, multi-pollutant temporal profiles will be developed for an investigation of short-term associations with exposure and cardiorespiratory health outcomes. Next, multi-pollutant spatial profiles will be developed to examine long-term associations between multi-pollutant exposure and respiratory disease incidence. During this phase, the candidate will receive new training in biostatistical and epidemiologic methods focused on environmental epidemiology. Transitioning to independence in the R00 phase of the award, these new skills will be merged with the PhD training to pursue research focused on understanding the implications of climate on air quality mixtures.
The first specific aim will examine the meteorological sensitivity of specific multi-pollutant combinations in order to better understand potential changes in air pollutant mixtures under various climate scenarios. The final specific aim is to develop environmental profiles for the examination of human health vulnerability to heat and multi-pollutant mixtures. At the conclusion of this award, the candidate intends to have demonstrated expertise in analyzing effects for the emerging research areas of multi-pollutant mixtures and climate variability, providing a firm basis for a career as an environmental health scientist focusing on exposure characterizations for epidemiological research.